Session 6

Fortunately this felt like a continuation of the progress made in session 5.

Relaxing into a stance where I’m lined up with the boss, pressing forward with the bow while drawing to my anchor point and, particularly, concentrating on not twisting the string – this made a huge difference and I can see it is a mistake that has accounted for a lot of my errant arrows. Release seems naturally a bit better because of it. 

I shot quite well on the 30 yard boss, so because it was busy moved to 40 yards. Quite a lot of arrows were going under, so adjusting for distance is still an issue and I plan to go back to shorter distances next week.

40 yards. Starting to get some sort of control over what’s happening using my hybrid and the wooden arrows.

What’s amazing is the feeling that you’ve got it just right. It’s true that you can sense it the moment you release. You just know everything came together correctly on that shot and you witness the arrow strike the middle of the gold. 

40 yards.

The trouble is replicating those shots. It’s nigh on impossible to remember every little choice made during the set up. I guess that’s why I’m trying to find a way to make each part of the process work for me, then I can adjust as necessary. The problem is being such a beginner that some things don’t work at all and I watch an arrow sail off in some unpredictable way over, under or to the side of the boss.

When it doesn’t go to plan.

After a while the 40 yard boss started to get busy so I moved to 50 yards, which was more a miss than hit affair at times, but usually looked a bit like this. 

50 yards (45.72 metres). Note that both colours of fletching are my arrows.

I just need more practice. Again, 2 hour club session seemed too short. I’m missing a session but back again next week. Also got a field shoot or two coming up.

What was of interest tonight was meeting a new member of the club’s committee and being told about the 252 scheme. This is basically a badge scheme where you get a coloured badge if you score 252 within a set amount of shots. For barebow, if you shoot 252 in under 72 (six dozen) arrows at 20 yards you get a badge. You get a different coloured badge if you do 30 yards, etc. And for recurve there’s less shots and for compound less again. Scoring is done with gold being 9, red 7, blue 5, black 3, white 1.

Some quick calculations: 252/7=36 or 252/5=50.4

So, if I just hit red 36 times out of 72, I’d get the badge. Or, blue 51 times. Surely this can’t be too hard at 20 or 30 yards? (Famous last words?) 

Apparently getting this score is a good indicator that you are ready to move to the next distance up. No idea if I can do this or not, but it’ll be fun finding out.

Comedy set back

So, a while back I found a stick that looked like it would make a promising bow rest. 

I shaved off the bark.

Drilled a hole in the bottom.

Found a suitable bit of metal for the ground spike. 

Inserted the ground spike with some 2-part epoxy resin. Waited for it to harden. 

Painted the stick with wood sealant to make it waterproof. And ta-da! 

One beautiful new bow rest sticking in the nice soft lawn…
…which snapped the first time I stuck it in the harder soil at the club range.

Rotten at the core, see? So, lesson learnt. Back to the drawing board.

A longbow rest/stand/holder

Having already experienced the joys of archery in wet mud, I’ve been looking at what to put my bow on when out and about. 

During the recent field shoot, I was lucky enough to have a loan of what was essentially a walking stick with a spike on the bottom and some sort of horn antler arrangement at the top for resting a bow against.

So, I’ve spent ages googling “bow stand” and then “bow holder” trying to find one of these, but all I got were telescopic things for recurves and clip-on ones for compounds. 

Eventually, I stumbled upon the term “bow rest” and realised specifying “longbow rest” or “wooden horn bow rest” worked better.

Ultimately, I found these antler bow stands here but they were expensive at about £50. Someone in our club had made one just from a branch that split in two at the top and by hammering a chisel bit into the bottom in place of a ground spike. I think I will probably go down that route.

In my searching travels, I also came across metal ground quivers which can also hold a bow, but I’d seen a wooden one at the club for a hybrid longbow and that had been created by its owner. I am not that handy at woodwork, so I eventually found them for sale here, but they’re also rather pricey at £30+

Yet this is something that I could really do with for outdoor target shooting. It’s just something to hold the bow off the ground and keep it dry while chatting or collecting arrows.

I was just about to settle for a metal Cartel ground quiver for about £12 inc. postage when… 

… miraculously, after spending far too long searching for such things, I found (and bought) this second hand item on eBay for a fiver:

Not a bad find! 

Update: When I was in the shop buying my bow, I asked the salesman-archer if he had those walking sticks/bow rests with the ground spike and antlers atop. (I knew they used to sell them because of a dead link I found online.) Well, it turns out he used to make them and it was he who sold them to the company online that still stocks them. He told me to get a roe antler for a few quid off eBay, a birch staff, and attach with 2-part epoxy resin. Then drill a hole in the bottom for a tent peg with the hook sawn off. I might well give this a go as it’ll be a lot cheaper than the £50 they are online.

Two more things

While I remember… 

During the 3D shoot, the men’s barebow winner told me that, apart from years of practice, the answer is to tune your equipment. He pointed out most people can’t be bothered, so they never score as well as they could. Indeed, when I shared this info with another beginner they said immediately, “Oh, but who can be bothered doing all that?” 

I had asked what tuning was and the simplified response, while scoring a shot on the 3D range, was, to summarise: altering the nocking point on the string until it hits a sweet spot that feels just right, then shooting long bare-shafts and cutting them down until they’re just right, meaning the “spine” or stiffness of them is just right. 

So, of course, I plan to do this, but maybe not until my next-again bow, with new arrows, when I’ve got 6 months to a year in hand and my shooting is more consistent and my understanding great enough to be able to determine what qualifies as right. 

On that note, making my own arrows sounds like it will be necessary. I’m told a good jig only costs about £40. And I like the idea of disappearing into the garage to make my own arrows, there’s something romantic about that idea, like it’s a type of meditation. 

The second thing I learnt was that Henry Bodnik (of Bearpaw bows) wrote a book about instinctive archery. This I need to track down.

Quivers and things

One thing I haven’t done yet is buy any equipment. There’s lots to think about just trying to determine what bow to get, nevermind the plethora of other accoutrements out there. 

I’ve read about people half-filling their quivers with oats to stop the arrows rattling together (probably hunters). One person had a magnet in their back quiver to hold the arrow tips. This stops them falling out when bending over, and gives them a reassuring click when you put them in it.

Metal strips can be applied to wooden arrows so they can be found by a metal detector if you’ve been shooting out in the field or at outdoor targets and lost one. There’s also glow in the dark paint so you can go back at night and find arrows more easily.

No doubt there’s a host of different little tricks-of-the trade like these, and I look forward to learning more and finding out if they’re actually useful. But the first hurdle is getting to the point where I can get my own equipment and I’m not even close yet – still three more beginner lessons to go!